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Western Short Story:Pearly & Her Ladies
by Ginn Navarre
"Now Sam you know dang well that the girls and I have jest as much right to join this here wagon train as anyone else. Just look over thar, those four wagons are the best money can buy with the teams to match and your money and most like the men on this train helped pay for them." She leaned over and shook her finger at him and laughed hardily. This made every inch of her large frame jiggle within the tight faded silk dress that had once been beautiful.
Ole Sam looked quickly around wishing Pearly would lower her voice, after all getting this wagon train across to California with all the trouble along the way, he sure didn't need all the men's wives yammering at him and fight un with their husbands when Pearly's girls got within sight. He pulled his hat low and avoided looking straight at the now portly woman that stood in front of him for he would always see that once pretty gal that showed him a more steamy side of life. Before he could find the words to tell her that the trouble it would cause was much worse than fighting some of the renegade Indians that they were sure to encounter, she lowered her voice and spoke again.
"Sam I know what you be think-un but you and I have sat down at a few card games many times and sometimes I watched you jest play the odds and walk away the winner. This time I need to be the dealer and I'm willin to deal my cards---face up. All I'm askin is if fen you will let me and the girls jest follow along the rest of your train and I give you my word that my girls will not contact any of those men but you best warn your men that I will shoot anyone of them right where it won't show if they come snooping around."
She was desperate to leave all the towns behind, for it seemed that all those so called do-gooder ladies were dead set on taking their sweet Sissy away an putting her in an orphans home or such. There weren't nutin wrong with pretty golden haired Sissy she just didn't talk no more and jest stayed locked in a place no one could find a key fer. Her momma had been one of her best girls when she was born and then up and just plain run off with some no good travel-un salesman---from that day on Sissy had not spoken a word. Mostly now she jest sits brushing her beautiful golden hair and combing it with the only possessions that her momma had left behind. A beautiful silver handled comb, brush and mirror set. One of the girls had given her a purse that she tied around her waist and kept her special treasure in.
Pearly took a deep breath, "Sam I'm a figurin if we kin git our self's to San Francisco we might be able to get a fresh start and I hear folks there are not so apt to stick thar nose in where it ain't welcome."
Sam leaned back against the wagon wheel and wiped the sweat off his brow with one swipe of his sleeve. "Pearly I know that your girls can handle them self on this trip---hell most of them carry a blade tucked some wher's under them clothes. I even hear'ed that Rachel and Katie have been known to put a pistol in a fellers face when it be needed."
Pearly's laughter startled one of the nearby horses and she waited until it calmed a bit before she spoke. "Sam jest between the two of us all of my girls have and can use a Winchester rifle but my ole scatter gun is plenty good nuf for me."
Sam went on to explain that their wagons would have to travel behind the rest of the train and eat dust. At night they would form their own small laager and one of his side-riders would check on them several times for he could not spare a man or scout when they got to Indian territory. There was a long pause and he again avoided her eyes---"I'm jest doing this for Sissy," but she caught the tug of a grin that he tried to hide. He then handed her the pencil to make her mark to the list.
The days were long and the trail was littered with possessions that folks had to abandon as the trail got steeper and their stock could not withstand the load. Their evenings were more than welcomed when the cooking fires were lit and especially if they were camped near a river.
It was only when they entered Indian territory that Pearly noticed a difference in Sissy. She had always been content to sit and comb her golden hair as they made their way, now with her brush in hand she seemed to be staring off as if she was seeing somethin in the distance---yet Pearly could not spot anything even with her spy-glass.
Sam and one of his Indian scouts had informed her that they were now in Pawnee and Sioux territory and Arapaho and Comanche roamed these parts as well and it was not uncommon for small groups to split from their main tribe for disagreements and choose a new younger leader. His scout had told him that a small band had been following them and seemed to have their eyes on her wagons. This was not unusual yet they did not show paint on them or their horses so they were probably only interested in her horses and she should keep one eye open at night for that would be the time that they would silently slip in and steal.
The very next day as they topped a ridge she saw them at a distance. It did seem that they were not only watching her wagons but they were keeping pace but far enough away that there was no danger from a winchester that might find its way. They would appear and then disappear from view as they rode along the hills. Pearly counted about eight or ten the first day and then it came down to only one and he was astride a white horse and he was much closer. It was clear that Sissy was facinated by this Indian and several times she had to grab her and lead her back from that direction.
Pearly franticly searched their small circle of wagons the next morning looking for Sissy but she was nowhere to be found and there were no horse's missing. She peered through her spy glass and scanned along the last rolling hills that were near by----there she was! She was standing beside that Indian warrior and looking up into his face and smiling, as she looked closer she could she that Sissy's seem to be talking to him.
Sam, startled her when he spoke for she had not heard him or his scout ride up. "Pearly I am sorry that this has happened but I ain't surprised and thar ain't any thing I can do about it." He went on to explain to her what his scout had told him. It seemed that this band and their leader had seen Sissy and her long golden hair and to them she had a powerful meaning---she was a symbol of SAKURAU the sun god that gave life to all living things.
Pearly had tears in her eyes for she knew that now Sissy had found her voice and she would be happy. When the order was given to move on---there left on a big bolder was Sissy's favorite quilt and four jars of honey that she was fond of.